Ghosts of Halloweens Past

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere I’m terribly busy these days writing my novels and thus all my creativity is going there for the time being. So my blog is suffering. As a lazy excuse for an annual birthday-slash-halloween post I’m collating my halloween posts of earlier years.

The timeless classic:


Stealing Candy From Babies

Halloween was last week, but both of you that follow my sekret (shh!) blog knew that. At least I hope you knew that. About half of the people out there with children also have candy left, even after four days.

This brings up a big question. What do you do with your kid’s candy?

If you are me, you do nothing. It’s your kid’s candy, not yours. You can ration it in the name of protecting your child’s health. You can even toss it or donate it for the same reason. In either case, you probably are keeping your child informed of the candy’s fate. At least I’d hope you are.

What you cannot do is take it for yourself. Doing so is amoral. It may not legally qualify as theft because in most states a parent retains ownership of his or her child’s possessions. It is implicit that the candy in your child’s stash is under their control, at least to the child.

You can ask your child to share. You can even force your child to share. But unless you impart to your child that the candy they gathered is not theirs, then to them, it is.

They might notice that the Reese’s Cups have all disappeared overnight. What if your child was saving those for last because they are their favorites? What lessons are we teaching our children if we just take from them without at least notifying them? We’re telling them that property is ethereal and reality shifts. We’re imparting a psychosis on them.

It’s one thing to impart the harsh reality that, as the despot of the home, you can claim ownership of anything in it. That’s a reality of life that children will learn one day – that even the people we love can be jerks. But to shift their reality without explanation, that’s messing with the way their brain works.

We change the child’s world all the time when they are not around. But when they come home to a newly painted bedroom, we’ll tell them why it changed. “We painted it.” That settles the issue and they know that reality doesn’t just randomly shift.

But if we help ourselves to their candy bag, and they were paying attention to how much was in there if not specifically what items were in there, their reality is shifting without explanation.

If you are going to be a jerk about your kid’s candy, make sure you tell them what’s happening. They should be aware that nothing in the world happens without cause. That’s not to say that nothing happens without reason, but something always causes change. Religious people may say that God made that happen and scientists may say that a string of causality made that happen, but nothing just happens spontaneously.

Depending on how you handle explaining the communistic concept of taking your child’s candy, they will either learn to share empathetically or learn that “might makes right.”

I, personally, am of the opinion that I have my own means to acquire sweets if I need them. I don’t need to take my children’s. If I want something in their bag, I’ll ask them for it. After five days have passed, I will tell them I’m taking it. By then they should have taken what they wanted out of the stash. I’ll warn them to separate anything they don’t want to share and stash it separately.

In any case, I won’t let my children’s world change without explaining, to the best of my ability, why. Any attempt at why at least get their brains working to know that change is causal. It may spur them to think about the causes of other things and investigate. It won’t be a bad thing if someday my children can prove that my hypothesis on why something happened was wrong.

Top 10 Halloween Treats

(by my personal preferences)

 10) Pixie Stix

What’s not to like about pure sugar. The only downside to these is occasionally kids try to snort them. Don’t snort the Pixie Stix.

9 ) Necco Wafers

Candy Nickels is what I used to think these were.

8 ) Laffy Taffy

Particularly Banana flavored. I will usually skip the green ones.

7 ) Sixlets

Candy Covered Chocolate Flavored Candy. It has candy twice in it’s description. Can’t beat that.

6 ) Gummis

Halloween portions are just the right size to avoid gummy tummy – providing you can stop after one or two or three or oops.

5 ) Caramel Cremes or CowTails

Unless they are so old the caramel is petrified. But even then, the creme is still good, and that’s the best part.

4 ) Starburst

The two-piece Halloween packs only have the drawback that sometimes they don’t have your favorite flavor. But it’s Starburst, the worst flavor is still great.

 3 ) Snickers

I have always preferred Snickers over the similar alternatives. Just a traditional favorite.

 2 ) Reese’s Cups.

We have a friday night tradition that I may have mentioned in an earlier post but won’t go into here. One of the things that come out every Friday night is a plastic zipper bag of chocolate. 90% of the chocolate in this bag is Hershey’s Kisses. We add a new bag of kisses each week of whatever flavor is available. At any given time there are about eight flavors of kisses in the zipper bag as we do not eat them all each night and they’ll stay in the bag for several weeks. Sometimes we add other chocolate such as Reese’s Cups. Reese’s Cups never get left in the bag; by the end of the night there are never any left.

1 ) Zagnut

This is the Holy Grail of Halloween Candies. I’ve discovered a significant portion of the population has never had a Zagnut and doesn’t know what one is. It’s like a Butterfinger, but instead of chocolate coating, it’s baked coconut.

Worst 10:


When I was young, I was diagnosed as Hyperactive because my teacher complained she they never saw me working on my schoolwork. I was always doing other things and going a mile a minute. This led to two major issues that would affect my entire childhood. The first was that I was removed from first grade and sent back to Kindergarten. The second was that I was diagnosed as Hyperactive – because the teacher suggested I was and the doctor shrugged and agreed. About a month after I was sent back, my teacher cleaned out my desk and discovered all of my schoolwork had been completed. It’s not that I wasn’t working on it, it’s that I finished quickly. By that time, they decided too much time had passed and I couldn’t re-integrate into first grade. How does this pertain to raisins? Well, Hyperactivity was blamed on Artificial Coloring and Flavoring. So candy became forbidden to me. My brother still got chocolate and brightly colored sweets. I got raisins.

9 )Licorice

Most Cheap licorice tastes more like gelatin than sugar and gelatin is tasteless. I like good licorice. But that’s not the kind that’s found in the grocery store.

8 )Jolly Ranchers

Good flavor, but I get bored with these long before they’re gone. And when I bite them and break them, they sometimes cut my gums. Not as fun as it sounds.

7 )SnackCakes

Twinkies are yummy, but they get crushed in the candy bag.

6 )Spider Rings

Cheap plastic rings. Every kid should get a spider ring once. Once.

5 )Nickels

Seriously? A nickel? This isn’t 1958 anymore. If you want to hand out money, make it at least a quarter.

4 )Dental Floss

Admittedly I don’t floss as often as my dentist tells me I should. But to a kid a spool of waxed thread is just dangerous. I made my first garrote when I was 6 from dental floss I got on Halloween. Not that I’ve made a lot of weapons in my life – except for the couple years I worked as a knife maker…er moving on.

3 )Raisinettes

Raisins ruining chocolate.

2 )Toothbrushes

Do these cheap brushes ever get used? I mean for cleaning teeth.

 1 )MaryJane

My disdain for MaryJane may be insane. But it’s an all-natural candy made from peanut butter. After being diagnosed as hyperactive, I was still allowed to Trick or Treat – but when I came home my parents replaced all my beautiful candy with MaryJane candies. They lightened up after a few years, but my disdain for these never has.

What Candy to give out on Halloween?

A gaggle of trolls and hobgoblins show up on your doorstep and threaten unbetold woes on your household if you do not provide sweet sustenance. This is summed up with the phrase they scream as you answer the door: Trick or Treat. In some parts of the country this isn’t a threat at all but a deal in which the a beggar must offer a Trick prior to receiving their Treat. In the end, everyone usually gets their Treats.

But what are the treats?

If you came to my door in the last few years its been a regular sized Snickers, Milky Way or 3Musketeers. But not everyone is willing to shell out fifty cents for each kid that comes to your door. The economics of it are on your side if you have kids. In theory, your household should bring in more value of candy than it doles out. This is assuming your kids Trick or Treat in your neighborhood. Most people in the same neighborhood will be from the same economic class, and therefore provide similar valued treats. The tipping factor here is that there are several homes that hand out candy but don’t send kids out. If you hand out the big candy bars, this may not be true because there will always be more of the types that hand out the cheap, small candy. People who are on a budget don’t earn my ire here for handing out tiny treats, but the penny pinchers who could afford the full-sized candy and hand out a single Dum-Dum do.

There are some snacks you should not hand out on Halloween.

Healthy snacks are hard to do. Fruit is not a good treat because most parents will toss fruit immediately due to the mostly false rumors of tampering. Ditto to anything you make at home. Popcorn balls, crisped rice treats  and cookies are all in this category. It will just lead to a sad kid as they watch part of their stash go straight to the trash. Save the homemade treats for close friends and people you’d trust to give you a candied apple.

There are some things you can give out that are healthy and not earn the ire of the kids like a toothbrush will. Prepackaged fruit cups are sold in the stores near the yogurt. These are tamperproof so they don’t go to the trash. Granola Bars are a little healthier than candy bars and if you look hard enough you can find mini-versions made just for Halloween. But, let’s be honest. People who give out healthy foods for Halloween are just sticks in the mud.

Avoid the all-natural candies that look like all-natural candies. There are some out there that are nice and colorful and will do fine. The colorless and beige varieties may earn you the appreciation of the diet attentive parents, but the kids won’t touch it and it will go into the trash sometime late next October when it comes time to empty the candy bag so it can be refilled.

The best treats are sugar laden candies of either the chocolate or non-chocolate variety. If you live somewhere that is over 90 degrees on Halloween night, giving out chocolate is a little sadistic. Oh well, it’s Halloween and a little playful sadism never hurt anyone. Or maybe it did but it was fun for all involved so does it really matter?

Think about it, if the parents didn’t expect their kids to get fully processed unhealthy candy, they wouldn’t be out walking around door to door. Okay, I am aware of a small fraction of people who do trick or treating for the experience but then toss all the candy gathered and replace it with stuff they bought for their kid. So Wasteful. If you are one of these people, I will pay for a standard shipping box at the post office and you can send the gathered candy my way instead of trashing it. Please remove all fruit and popcorn before shipping. Don’t just send me the leftovers after you’ve picked out your favorites either. If you want to pick through and take out the good stuff first, you can donate the leftovers to charitable organizations like food banks and Treats for Troops who’ll send it out for Christmas. I’m not sure a soldier in Afghanistan would eat a MaryJane either but they may be useful as torture devices. They should be against the Geneva Convention.

Avoid the bite sized and mini sized candy bars. They aren’t the bargain you think they are. Go with the at least the fun-size. (Here’s where my friend Jason will invariably say that that’s not fun size. He’ll hold his hands two feet apart and say that this would be fun size.)

Candy Mixes offer a variety of candies for a few bucks a pound. Don’t be stingy when doling out the loot, though. 1 piece of this does not constitute a treat unless you’re on a very tight budget. If you are on a budget, kudos for participating. However, no matter how dire your budget is, it’s not acceptable for adults to ask for treats too in most areas. (Again Jason will tell me how in his hometown the kids got candy and the adults got beer.) I’ll give an adult candy if they’re in costume and ask, but I won’t think highly of them for asking.

The best candy comes in air-tight packaging and not just because tampering would be obvious with such. Honestly the best stuff comes in that kind of wrap. Tomorrow I’ll post my lists of top ten treats and bottom ten treats. I’ll skip the apples and popcorn on that list.

Elmo’s Candy Begging Day

A high percentage of the readers  (both of them) of my super sekrit (shh!) blog suggested I expand on this.

We are a civilized society with no more need of superstition and a dire need to protect our children from knowing fear. Citing the works of several highly regarded couch dwelling theological psyciometrists, it has been determined that Halloween might expose our children to an emotion they should reserve only for the Almighty: fear.

Children, being fragile and easily manipulated by imagery should not be exposed to death at any age. Death is frightening even to adults, why should we allow our children to understand it or in their exposure to it, fear it. We should therefore do away with the imagery associated with Halloween. Ghosts and skeletons should be relegated to where they belong, buried and forgotten. Witches – have we learned nothing from the Inquisition and our glorious days of early American society – should be burned! Vampires are heresy – we only allow for one being to be raised from the dead before Judgment Day and he didn’t have fangs or drink blood. We drink His.

So starting this year we are putting Halloween where it belongs – in history.

October 31st will no longer see goblins or anyone else running around the streets. It will henceforth simply be the day before All Saints Day.

But, panic not. There is still a day to go door to door begging for treats. Beginning this year, on November 18th, the birthday of the new holiday’s namesake, we shall be celebrating Elmo’s Candy Begging Day. On this day we shall dress in fully licensed merchandise as our favorite children’s character and go door to door and beg for candy, perhaps offering a joyous song in return. This activity shall be titled “Treat for Treating” and will do away with the threat of tricks.

We shall from this day forward never again allow our children to even know of death. We will not teach them to face their fears. We feel fear for a reason. If we teach them to stand up to that which they do not understand they will be forever scarred. With the dismantling of Halloween, we can ensure that when faced with the unknown or the frightening our children will assume the correct protective position of cowering in the corner and weeping pitifully. This will protect them from harm, most assuredly.

So spread the word, Elmo’s Candy Begging Day is coming.*

*pending approval from Sesame Workshop.

Satire: A literary technique of writing or art which principally ridicules its subject often as an intended means of provoking or preventing change. Humor is often used to aid this. I feel ludicrous sticking this onto this bit of writing, but I fear there are some folks out there that might just think this was a serious idea. Apologies to Sesame Workshop. I know they would never support such a moronic idea.

Top Ten Worst Costume Ideas.

Continuing with the Halloween theme this week:

I’m firmly in the opinion that Halloween costumes should be creatures of the night. Witches, Demons and the undead should roam the streets. But, I’m a realist and, understanding that the tradition is now more accepting of pop-culture costumes, I’ve decided to limit the costumes I shall be disdainful of to a short list.

I normally hand out full sized Snickers on Halloween. Sometimes I offer the choice of a Snickers, Milky Way or 3Mustekeers. Show up at my door in one of the following and you’ll get a toothbrush.

10) Your own personal MMORPG character.

There are simpler geek costumes out there. Halloween is not Comic-Con or Blizz-Con. Even people that play MMORPGs will pretend not to understand what you’re dressed as for fear of being recognized for their geekdom. This year, I especially don’t want to see that 350 pound couch tumor down the street dressed as his female night-elf druid. If I never again see someone grab a full sized candy bar from my candy dish and toss it straight in his mouth only to spit out the wrapper as he walks away, it will be too soon.

Its okay to dress as a fantasy character, but keep it a little generic. When someone asks, are you some kind of elf, just say yes and walk away. Don’t explain the details, they asked a yes or no question because they only wanted a one word answer.

9) Ninja.

Dress all in black and carry a fake sword. So overdone. And with such a simple dress code you won’t stand out at all. If you need to carry a sword, go with Pirate. At least they can individualize and are not limited to a single color. Even the numerous Jack Sparrows each have their own take on the character. If you insist on being a Ninja, be a little cool about it and make it a turtle too. If you’re a teenager, you’re too old for even that. And if you’re a mutant…I can’t help you.

8 ) Any costume where the mask is a thin form molded plastic P.O.S. with holes for your eyes and nose and is held on by a thin rubber band.

It’s not the 70’s anymore. And honestly, these masks are not safe and they’re certainly not comfortable.

7) A relative.

Your family may appreciate the inside joke, but inside jokes should be kept inside.

6) Old people.

A little powder in the hair, suspenders and cane, and voila, the 9 year old is now 90. Boo-wait-for-it-ring. It’s All Hallows Eve. If you’re going to depict someone who’s 90 years older than you, go for just a little more effort and add another few years to your costume. Preferably to a more post-mortem look. The elderly are not amusing costumes until after they croak.

5) An injured person.

A bloody bandage is not amusing on an otherwise healthy character. As with #6, it’s not going an extra mile, but merely inches to step the costume up to a recent fatality.

4) A character that could be mistaken for a normal person on the street.

If the person you’re dressed as doesn’t require a prop or a unique recognizable style, it’s not a costume. Dressing up as a character that will only be recognizable after you run through a skit of impressions is a stage act, not a Trick or Treat costume.

3) A character from a novel.

If it hasn’t been made into a movie, no one will recognize you. Without a visual depiction, two people reading the same novel will have different impressions of what the character would look like. If you have to explain your costume to every single person you meet, its a fail. Novels that have been made into movies might be an exception to this rule.

2) Religious Heroes.

Saints, prophets, etc. Unless you’re John the Baptist after Salome’s request has been fulfilled, its just not very Halloweeny. The Saint’s have their day and it’s a very short wait after Halloween.

1) Jesus H. Effing Christ.

There’s already a day where people in several parts of the world dress up like JC. Only they take a step further than anyone does on Halloween. I say; if you’re not actually going to nail yourself to a cross or have a friend do it for you, don’t bother. If you are, wait till Good Friday.

For the record, the middle names are added in the time honored tradition to avoid actually invoking God junior’s name. Blasphemy is a no-no.

Trunk or Treat

Again people are mucking with tradition.

The fear mongers of the world are feeding our fears and preying on our instincts to protect our children. They want us to attend their usually religious-group-sponsored events instead of trick or treating.

Trunk or Treating usually works with a large church parking lot. Families pull their cars in and open their trunks and kids walk around and ask the parishioners for treats. People feel safer going to these because the other parishioners aren’t strangers and religious folks are trustworthy and will protect our children, right?

You could attend one of these and supposedly feel like it’s safer for your children.

The fear mongers want you to believe that their treats are safer than the stuff strangers will hand out. The classic razor blade in the apple scare is brought up.

Historically speaking, there have been only a handful of documented cases of strangers causing harm to children using Halloween treats as the vehicle of doom. By handful, I can find 5 actual examples, ever. Most of them were in the 60’s.

The razor in the apple? In most cases, the kid fessed up to putting it there themselves or the parents put it there to get media attention. That’s right, the most likely people to tamper with your kids candy live in your house. The only documented death from eating tainted Halloween candy – the kids father did it for the insurance money.

Criminologists will tell you that almost never will you see a sociopath perpetrate a crime they cannot themselves witness the results of. The only documented case in history of random unwitnessable violence is the Tylenol poisonings of the 80s.

Statistically any given person has only about a 0.5% chance(1 in 200) of being a victim of violent crime over the course of a year. This statistic includes people who are not physically hurt but potentially mentally affected by a threat of physical violence. This simple statistic doesn’t mention that lifestyles or criminal activities can affect these odds. But if you’re a normal person living a normal life, your odds are significantly lower that you’ll be a victim of a violent crime. Unless you live in Detroit, Violent crime rates do not spike on Halloween.

And there are things every parent should be doing to mitigate the threat of random violence to their offspring. Two simple things will cover all non-familial Halloween threats: Don’t let your kids Trick or Treat alone and check their candy.

Younger kids should have an adult with them. Hint: If the kid is old enough to not have an adult with them, they might be too old for Trick or Treating. Okay, some teenagers still like to Trick or Treat. But, of these, how many want to go it alone?

Checking candy is easy. Most candy these days comes in sealed packages. If you squeeze the package and feel air pressure inside holding, no one has stuck a needle into the package. Avoid homemade treats from people you’re not close to. Popcorn balls and rice crispy treats go straight in the trash. Again they’re most probably fine, but there’s enough other candy that, as parents we can be a little paranoid.

Apples – if you’re unsure of the source, toss ’em. I learned by watching Firefly that you can detect tampered apples by dicing them before eating.

Trunk or Treating is not the end of the world, but the fellow parishioners are not really and different on a trust level than your neighbors. In both cases it’s not hard to track the candy back to the source so it’s not a crime an intelligent criminal would commit. I mean really – how hard is it to find a criminal if the site of the crime was his front door? It could just as likely be the trunk of his car in a church parking lot. The odds of either one is pretty much zero.

Other than fostering a culture of fear, and not the fun kind usually associated with Halloween, the downsides of Trunk or Treating include less exercise to burn off the twenty thousand and nine calories you will gain from stealing your kids candy. The decorations of people’s trunks are not usually as fun as the decorations at home. And the biggy: The religious literature factor. There’s always a chance that a house will be giving out religious pamphlets or even new testaments for Halloween, but attend a Trunk or Treat event and you’re sure to get some.

I say there’s nothing wrong with augmenting the stash with a little Trunk or Treating, but go door to door too. In addition to the exercise, you’ll get to meet those neighbors you only see once a year now that we all have Facebook. Don’t let the church groups replace the healthy fear of ghosts and demons with an unhealthy fear of society.